Peace in Middle East benefits all

Updated: 2012-04-10 08:06

By Cai Jiahe (China Daily)

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The ceasefire in Syria, which is due to commence on Tuesday, offers hope that the crisis in Syria may finally be resolved. The international community needs to give the Syrian government and the Istanbul-based "Syria National Council", which the opposition groups have recognized as their only legitimate representative, time to negotiate.

Though the Western media say the peace plan is "doomed" to fail, the international community should be patient and help the related sides carry out the peace plan, rather than "wait for and celebrate" such a "failure". A Syria in chaos will not help anyone but just bring more humanitarian crises.

China has been constantly striving for peace in the country and the region. It has made peace and regional stability its priorities and because of this it has remained consistent in its opposition to military intervention in Syria. In order to protect civilians, China has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria. Maybe those who claim this is irresponsible should remember that China agreed with UN Resolution 1970 concerning sanctions against Mummar Gadhafi's regime in Libya, which was supposed to prevent a humanitarian crisis, and look what happened there. China has never been opposed to reform in the Middle East; all it opposes is military intervention by external powers to overthrow regimes in the name of "democracy and freedom".

China supports the Syrian people's pursuit of reform and protection of their interests, its stance, which has been misunderstood for some time, comes from its long-held principle that the internal affairs of a sovereign state should be decided by that state's own people. The humanitarian disasters resulting from military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, have clearly demonstrated that external force is not the solution.

China has always advocated that both the Syrian government and the opposition forces should put a stop to the violence and negotiate, so it has provided its full support to international envoy Koffi Annan's six-point peace proposal, as well as the UN's peacekeeping mission, provided it is based on international law and used to prevent a humanitarian disaster only.

As Premier Wen Jiabao said after his meeting with Annan in Beijing in March, all sides in Syria should seize this precious opportunity for peace by making positive responses to the mediation efforts. China will further cooperate with all concerned to find a peaceful solution to crisis.

But the Syrian situation is complicated and the peace process will not be proceed without difficulties. The Syrian problem is, first of all, directly related to the politics of the Middle East as a whole. The so-called Arab Spring, which has convulsed the region for a year is being fuelled by some powerful countries, which are selectively intervening in the movement to pursue their own interests.

The support they offer favored opposition forces contain not only money and medical care, but also weapons. In the "Friends of Syria" meeting on April 1, Sunni-led Arab nations pledged $100 million to pay opposition fighters while the Obama administration agreed to send communications equipment to help the rebels. If attempts to turn reform movements into religious conflicts succeed, the Middle East will find itself trapped in a new cycle of violence and humanitarian disasters.

What is happening in Syria is also closely related with neighboring Iran. Shiite-led Syria is Iran's only ally, and Israel and its allies have never concealed their intention of dealing with Syria before attacking Iran. A war against Iran could easily snowball into a regional war by inflaming neighboring countries like Lebanon, Iraq, and Gulf states like Palestine.

These two factors have complicated the Syrian crisis. If Western powers insist on linking the Syrian crisis with other regional issues, the possibility of a regional war will be greatly enhanced. The whole world would suffer from such a war as the Middle East provides a great part of the world's energy sources and a war in the oilfields would undoubtedly prevent the global economy from recovering as hoped.

Western countries should give up their idea of building their security on the sacrifice of others, and join in the efforts to prevent war. They should adopt the core principle of China's strategy in the Middle East, namely of ensuring peace and general stability. After all, peace in the region will benefit all, while war will do just the opposite.

The author is a professor of Islamic studies at the John Hopkins University - Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies.

(China Daily 04/10/2012 page9)